Our last week or so up the river Guadiana we had moved onto the pontoon at Alcoutim and ended up meeting quite a few more people, so the social scene was a lot of fun. We went into the riverside bar one evening and met a bunch of people who all piled in from the free wine and chestnuts being dished out on the waterfront, who were all suitably inebriated.
Some were from boats, others were travelling in camper vans. The next night we took homemade pizza over to Prinses Mia, Martijn’s 44ft steel boat, that he has done up over the last four years or so and kitted out with bargain finds in the most beautiful way.
The inside is palatial and he says he turns the bathroom into a sauna with the use of some sort of pipework construction I didn’t quite understand (Martijn is Dutch and speaks at one hundred miles an hour!). We also met Will on SV Mangata and Max who has a 22ft wooden boat and is planning to sail across the Atlantic this winter. Mad…I don’t think many people are brave enough to go across in a boat that small!
Martijn could always be heard inviting people round for a ‘party’ and we enjoyed a couple of nights aboard drinking cheap red wine and sharing stories from life at sea, and for us newbies it’s great to pick up useful information and have a sounding board and advice with various boat issues. Problems never seems as big once you find out most people have had the same, or far worse, in their time.
On Tuesdays nights there’s a music night held in the Riverside Tavern in Alcoutim where people bring along everything from guitars, ukelele’s, mouth organs, flutes, penny whistles, fiddles and more, which Ben joined in with. Most people are liveaboards from up and downriver, but many live nearby in finca’s and it always proves a popular night.
On a walk one afternoon we finally found the elusive wild asparagus! However if it wasn’t for spotting a local picking it we’d never have known as the spiky bushes camouflage the green spears almost entirely.
Suddenly, it felt, it was time to leave the Guadiana and head back to Faro, and Bruce’s yard, where Bora Bora will spend two months on the hard. We really settled in there and as it was nearly a month it started to feel like a home to us. The time shot by, and with only a little wind forecast, but our lift out in five days time, we decided to go as unsettled weather was on its way which would delay us for too long.
We awoke to an ethereal mist hanging over the river, the temperature was 9 degrees in the boat, which feels freezing compared to the 18c+ we’d got used to of late. It soon warmed up when the sun came out and after another check of the weather and a farewell cup of tea with Martijn, we pulled up the anchor and made our way down river along with Will aboard Mangata. We both felt sad to be leaving, and if it wasn’t for the propeller and other work we would most probably have stayed for the worst of the winter, however we plan to go back when we are back in the water end of Jan/Feb.
As the water was fast flowing it only took us a couple of hours to get downriver but we ended up having to motor sail the 8 hours west, to the entrance to Culatra, making it in at sunset and anchoring easily, with Will not far behind.
It was good to be back in this area with the great food markets at Olhao close by where we stocked up before the predicted bad weather came in.
We also went for a long walk to the end of the island and found all the little gardens made by people who used to live on boats in the lagoon (hardly any left now as they clamped down on it) and collected some amazing shells, it is just so sad to see the amount of plastic that’s washed up.
That night and the next day we had 30+ kt winds, so we stayed on board and I made bread and some chutney with the persimmon from the Guadiana. Will managed to get over to us on his paddle board (!) for a cup of tea and we swapped some films from our hard drives. We’d put out an extra 10 metres of chain so we were held well.
Once the storm had passed we said goodbye to Will who was being lifted out at Olhao and early next morning made our way up the lagoons to the pool off Faro where we were met by a pilot boat from the yard.
It’s early January now and I’m sat outside, shoeless, in the glorious Portugeuse sun! It’s so lovely to see blue skies after the grey and cold of England we’ve just come back from. Don’t get me wrong I love the British seasons and we had a great few weeks visiting for Christmas and seeing family and friends (who I am dearly missing already), but the monotonous grey is something we don’t miss!
We are currently based in Bruce’s Yard, Faro, where we lifted out on the 22nd November and left her here for December. It’s very shallow this far up so its essential you follow the route shown and can only be lifted at high tide. Everything went well and we were glad to find the bottom was pretty clean so we only needed to give her a light sponge down. We flew back here on the 3rd Jan and plan to go back in the water on the 30th, so we have until then to complete the necessary jobs. We eventually got the propellor reshaped and balanced in the boatyard over at Olhao…for €30!! Absolute bargain so it was worth spending the time thinking about the best way to go about it. Ben has been working on getting the rudder shoe back on which needed bonding back to the hull with adhesive, after he used part of a stainless hose clip to reline the bronze which had worn away, which saved a lot of money and time and also avoided an explanation in Portuguese with a machinist! However as usual one job leads to others and in order to put the prop shaft back in the intermediate bearing was corroded and needed some attention. Also we’ve found that the damaged prop had done what we dreaded and also bent the prop shaft! However, after fearing an expensive fix we emailed the yard in Olhao who have quoted only €60 +vat to straighten!! They are called Santos & Santos and we’d highly recommend them…(NB. Portuguese only so google translate is a must if emailing or basic hand gestures along with the boat part in question if in person!)
Whilst back in the uk we ordered loads of parts, including the replacement batteries, and packed a pallet full which we then got collected and delivered direct to the yard. The batteries are complete monsters and each one weighs nearly the same as me! At the moment we climb a 12 foot ladder to get aboard so getting them up on deck is going to be interesting, but we’ll most probably use the block and tackle off the mizzen boom to hoist them up.
So far we’ve found this yard to be everything we need at the moment. I was surprised to find the toilets and showers so good and didn’t even know if there’d be a separate women’s one seeing as we’re quite a rare species in boat terms, but they are nearly new, with each having two showers and one toilet and everyone chips in to keep them clean. There’s also a washing machine in the block and a book swap (one of the little things I love about being part of the boating community). It’s a 5 minute walk to the train and a little further on to the main bus station where for €2.50 you can get a 20 minute bus to the airport. There are also two supermarkets 5 minutes walk up the road, one being inside a massive shopping mall that has a cinema so we’re going to head up there one evening as films are shown in English in Portugal! This morning I walked into town to one of the local veg markets and picked up some delicious strawberries and the biggest tomato I’ve ever seen. There are loads of bars in Faro, we’ve already sniffed out where to get €1 beers down next to the marina (anything more seems extortionate now we’ve got used to it) with some of the best places to eat being in the Old Town which is a beautiful area.
Bruce’s is a DIY yard so everyone here is willing to lend a hand or a tool for nothing, or a couple of beers at most, for instance today Roy came over for a coffee and took away one of our corroded stantion posts to weld, wanting nothing in return.
We’ve met quite a few people within the last week of being back and yesterday got invited to a lunchtime cheese and wine down at Yvonne and Birnies caravan. It was so much fun and we ended up having a hot pot dinner as well, finally leaving around 8pm when it finally got too cold to sit outside.
Now we’ve finally got two folding bikes (another eBay find in the pallet) we can cycle together, and about a 40 minute ride away is Faro beach, where we took a picnic and some time off from boat jobs.
I’ve made a start on the seat covers, but spent a day and a half fixing my sewing machine. I was all ready to take it to a repair shop thinking it was the timing that needed adjusting, but with lots of perseverance and with the help of (many) YouTube videos, I think it’s sorted! Minus a snapped needle.
We have friends coming from the UK to stay at the beginning of Feb, so for now it’s cracking on with the jobs ready for our splash date. We’re really looking forward to being back out on the water!